Canadians missing the beat on heart health

         Survey shows most Canadians unaware of atrial fibrillation;
                 a heart condition with serious consequences

    MONTREAL, May 25 /CNW/ - Results of a recent Leger Marketing survey
announced today reveal that the majority of Canadians do not recognize that
atrial fibrillation is a heart-related illness. On an unaided basis, only two
per cent of the 4,274 respondents polled were able to link this condition to
heart disease. When shown or read a list of heart diseases, fewer than half of
the respondents (40 per cent) were able to make the link, even though atrial
fibrillation affects nearly a quarter of a million Canadians who could
potentially end up in hospital with strokes, congestive heart failure and
other heart-related problems.
    While awareness of this condition is low, 54 per cent of respondents
reported having symptoms that could be associated with atrial fibrillation.
This is particularly relevant for those 65 and over, the population at highest
risk. In the survey, 25 per cent of respondents mentioned having experienced a
"racing, uncomfortable, irregular heart beat" while another 10 per cent
reported experiencing a "flopping" feeling in the chest.
    "It's important that we raise public awareness about this issue because
atrial fibrillation is a common condition that is likely to affect more and
more baby-boomers who will be entering their sixties and seventies soon," said
Dr. Paul Dorian, Division of Cardiology, St. Michael's Hospital, who points
out that atrial fibrillation currently affects six per cent of people over the
age of 65. "If left unchecked, it can have serious heart health consequences,
the most important of which is stroke." he said.

    Recognizing the risk factors

    In addition to age, risk factors for atrial fibrillation, an abnormal
heart rhythm in which the upper chambers of the heart beat in a wildly erratic
manner, include disease of heart valves, heart failure, high blood pressure
and excess weight. While heart valve disease and heart failure are less common
in the general population, excess weight and high blood pressure are
prevalent. In the survey, 21 per cent of respondents reported having high
blood pressure and 29 per cent reported they were overweight. While Dr. Dorian
explains that having these risk factors does not automatically mean that
people will develop atrial fibrillation, he does state that the chances of
developing this condition increase exponentially with each passing decade.
    "Canadians should not hesitate to speak with their physician about their
symptoms or if they have a medical history that puts them at increased risk",
he said.

    Recognizing the symptoms

    Although 40 per cent of respondents initially indicated an awareness of
atrial fibrillation, once the condition was described to them, more than half
(54 per cent) could not name any symptoms associated with it. On an unaided
basis, only five per cent of the 1,773 respondents who reported they were
aware of atrial fibrillation mentioned heart palpitations, even though this is
the most common symptom associated with this condition. When aided, however,
65 per cent of this group identified "racing, uncomfortable, irregular
heartbeat", while another 38 per cent identified a 'flopping' feeling in the

    Quality of life out of sync

    In addition to the serious heart health consequences that may result from
having atrial fibrillation, there are also quality of life issues that can
have an effect on a patient's daily life. For those who experience some of the
more debilitating symptoms of atrial fibrillation - including dizziness and
chest pain - seemingly simple tasks can become nearly impossible.
    Of the 115 respondents who reported that they had been diagnosed with
atrial fibrillation, close to half (46 per cent) stated that this condition
has a negative impact on their daily activities.
    As the survey reveals, atrial fibrillation's negative impact can also be
felt by family members who can find themselves in a caregiver role. Of the 524
respondents who reported that a family member had been diagnosed with atrial
fibrillation, more than half (56 per cent) said the condition negatively
impacted their loved ones' daily activities, indicating they may be sharing in
the distress experienced by those who have debilitating symptoms.

    Keep the rhythm: Talk to your doctor

    While the majority of respondents (83 per cent) say their family
physician would be their number one source for information on atrial
fibrillation, only 55 per cent of undiagnosed respondents who had experienced
one or more symptoms associated with this condition actually spoke with their
family doctor about their symptoms. The majority of those who did report their
symptoms to their doctor said that this led to an electrocardiogram, the most
common diagnostic test for atrial fibrillation.
    Beyond health care professionals, with family physicians being a clear
favourite (83 per cent), respondents reported that they would also seek
information about atrial fibrillation from other channels. Six in 10 said they
would consult some form of media, the most popular choice being the Internet
(59 per cent).
    According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, the most important
thing individuals can do is to speak to their healthcare professional if they
believe they may be at risk. They can also consult their web site at for more information on this condition.

    About atrial fibrillation

    Atrial fibrillation is the most common form of arrhythmia that can cause
many symptoms including heart palpitations, shortness of breath and fatigue,
and raise the risk for more serious heart problems. It increases the risk of
mortality two-fold, the risk of heart failure by two to three-fold, and the
risk of stroke by up to five-fold. It is estimated that up to 15 per cent of
all strokes are due to atrial fibrillation. The condition is more frequent in
men than in women across all age groups.

    About the survey

    The survey, commissioned by sanofi-aventis Canada Inc., was conducted by
Leger Marketing using a hybrid approach of both telephone and online
interviews. A total of 4,274 adults were polled: 2,743 completed the online
survey using Leger Marketing's Web panel while another 1,531 answered the
telephone survey. With a sample of this size, results are considered accurate
to within +/-1.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been
had the entire adult population been polled. The margin of error is higher for
specific sub-groups within the survey population. These data are weighted to
ensure that the sample's age/sex composition reflects that of the actual adult
population in each city according to Census data.

    About sanofi-aventis

    Sanofi-aventis, a leading global pharmaceutical company, discovers,
develops and distributes therapeutic solutions to improve the lives of
everyone. Sanofi-aventis is listed in Paris (EURONEXT : SAN) and in New York
    Sanofi-aventis is represented in Canada by the pharmaceutical company
sanofi-aventis Canada Inc., based in Laval, Quebec, and by the vaccines
company Sanofi Pasteur Limited, based in Toronto, Ontario. Together they
employ more than 2,000 people and are leaders in Canada's biopharmaceutical
sector, a critical research-based industry that generates jobs, business and
opportunity throughout the country.

For further information:

For further information: Dave Scholz, Vice-President, Leger Marketing,
(416) 815-0330; Valerie Cameron, MS&L, (416) 847-1320

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